"Looking at it logically, there’s no doubt that I’ll go before you," he said whenever the conversation turned to old age and shuffling off the mortal coil. “All things being equal, of course.”
Not the kind of equality I was looking forward to. You look at these things from a distance using the same comfortable specs that will eventually take you through every difficult patch, when you can see an end to whatever problem happens to bar the road. Intellectually you know it has to happen sooner or later, but ‘nah, not to us’, ostrich-like. (I do believe that’s a myth, ostriches do not stick their heads into the sand).
I am still counting the weeks since it happened. Still thinking ‘I wonder if there was anything we/I didn’t do / could have done that would have put off the evil day?' The simple fact is that it was his time.
His time, not mine. Not mine, so now I feel guilty for having outlasted Beloved. I feel guilty for surviving, for surviving and not crashing, for surviving and not lying shattered in a heap, wailing and broken; surviving and functioning, quite well, on the face of it. How shallow does that make me? Why am I not destroyed? I have no idea if guilt is part of the grieving process, like anger and denial, - I won’t be going back to the websites that would enlighten me. But guilt is a frequent yet vague visitor, unacknowledged, not dragged into the light of day to look at dispassionately. It’s almost as if I need to feel this guilt.
Could that be the reason why I now have habits that were Beloved’s habits, never mine? We have a small paring knife. It was his favourite and an absolute no-no for me. "The handle too small, the blade too short, I simply cannot get on with it”. Now it’s my favourite kitchen knife, I rummage in the drawer for it. Beloved and I both had muesli for breakfast, he with banana pennies, me without. He invariably offered me half his banana, I invariably turned it down. “You know I don’t like bananas”, I’d say, irritably. Guess what’s on my bowl of muesli now? Every morning? And who gets a large chunk of the banana? Beloved’s favourite chair was one of those large semi recliners. I always complained that it was bad for his posture, that he should at least keep it upright. Now this large, rather comfortable, dark green leather chair embraces me for TV watching and reading. Yes, I do make it lean back and often fall asleep in it for a spell. Oh yes, I also wear his summer anorak, although it’s rather baggy on me. And, no doubt, some of his better shirts left in the wardrobe will come in handy for me.
It’s a way of keeping him alive.